The next day Moses went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you attacking your fellow Hebrew?"
I. WE HAVE HERE FURTHER IMPORTANT REVELATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE CHARACTER OF MOSES AND HIS FITNESS TO BE DELIVERER OF ISRAEL.
1. It is evident that his conscience did not accuse him, as touching the slaying of the Egyptian. Wrong as the action was, he made it clear that he had done it from a right motive. Although he had taken the life of a fellowman, he had taken it not as a murderer, with malice in his heart against the individual, but as a patriot. Hence the conscience that makes cowards of us all - the consciousness, that is, of having done a wrong thing - was absent from his breast. It is a very great matter indeed not to go against conscience. Let conscience have life and authority, and God will take his own time and means to cure the blinded understanding.
2. Moses felt continued interest in the state of -Israel. He Went out the second day. He did not say, upon reflection, that these visits to his brethren were too perilous to be continued. He did not say, "I cannot trust my own indignant. ,, feelings,, and therefore I must keep away from these oppressed countrymen of mine. His heart was wholly and steadily with them. Interest may be easily produced while the exhibition of an injury is fresh, or the emotions are excited by some skilful speaker. But we do not want the heart to be like an instrument, only producing music so long as the performer touches it. We want it to have such a continued activity within, such a continued thoughtfulness, as will maintain a noble and alert sympathy with men in all their varied and incessant needs.
3. The conduct of Moses here shows that he was a hater of all oppression. His patriotic feeling had been excited by the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew, and now his natural sense of justice was outraged by seeing one Hebrew smiting another. He beheld these men the victims of a common oppression, and yet one of them who happens to be the stronger adds to the already existing sufferings of his weaker brother instead of doing what he can to diminish them. The patriotism of Moses, even with all its yet unremedied defects, was founded not only in community of blood, but in a deep and ardent love for all human rights. We may conclude that if Moses had been an Egyptian, he would not have joined Pharaoh in his remorseless treatment of Israel, nor seconded a policy of oppression and diminution on the plea that it was one of necessity. If the Egyptians had been under the thraldom of the Hebrews, then, Hebrew though he was, he would have sympathised with the Egyptians.
II. CONSIDER THE OCCASION OF HIS REMONSTRANCE. It is a sad lesson Moses has now to learn, that the oppressed will be the oppressors, if only they can get the chance. Here we are in the world, all sinners together, with certain outward consequences of sin prevalent amongst us in the shape of poverty and sickness, and all such trials onward to death. Right feeling should teach us, in these circumstances, to stand by one another, to bear one another's burdens and do what we can, by union and true brotherliness, to mitigate the oppressions of our great enemy. While he is going about seeking whom he may devour, we, his meditated prey, might well refrain from biting and devouring one another. But what is the real state of things? The rich sinner afflicts the poor, and too often uses him in his helplessness for his own aggrandisement. The strong sinner is always on the look-out to make as much as he can out of every sort of weakness among his fellow-sinners. And what is worse still, when the sinner professes to have passed from death unto life, he does not always show the full evidence of it in loving the brethren as he is bound to do (1 John 3:14). Some professed Christians take a long time to perceive, and some never perceive at all, that even simple self-indulgence is not only hurtful to self, but an ever-flowing spring of untold misery to others.
III. CONSIDER THE REMONSTRANCE ITSELF.
1. Notice the person whom Moses addresses. "He said to him that did the wrong." He does not pretend to come forward as knowing nothing of the merits of the quarrel. He does not content himself with dwelling in general terms on the unseemliness of a dispute between brethren who are also the victims of a common oppressor. It is not enough for him simply to beseech the disputants to be reconciled. One is clearly in the wrong, and Moses does not hesitate by implication to condemn him. Thus there appears in Moses a certain disposition towards the judicial mind, revealing the germs of another qualification for the work of his after-life. For the judicial mind is not only that which strives to bring out all the evidence in matters of right or wrong, and so to arrive at a correct conclusion; it is also a mind which has the courage to act on its conclusions, and without fear or favour pass the necessary sentence. By addressing one of these men rather than the other, Moses does in a manner declare himself perfectly satisfied that he is in the wrong.
2. Notice the question which Moses puts. He. smote the Egyptian; he expostulated with the Hebrew. The smiting of one Hebrew by another was evidently very unnatural conduct in the eyes of Moses. When we consider what men are, there is of course nothing astonishing in the conduct of this domineering Israelite; he is but seizing the chance which thousands of others in a like temptation would have seized. But when we consider what men ought to be, there was great reason for Moses to ask his question, "Why smitest thou thy fellow?" Why indeed! There was no true mason he could give but what it was a shame to confess. And so we might often say to a wrong-doer, "Why doest thou this or that?" according to the particular wrong he is committing. "Why?" There might be great virtue in this persistent interrogation if only put in a spirit purged as far as possible from the censorious and the meddlesome. What a man does carelessly enough and with much satisfaction, upon the low consideration of self-indulgence, he might come to forsake if only brought face to face with high considerations of duty and love, and of conformity to the will of God and example of Christ. Everything we do ought to have a sufficient reason for it. Not that we are to be in a perpetual fidget over minute scruples. But, being by nature so ignorant, and by training so bound-in with base traditions, we cannot too often or too promptly ask ourselves whether we have indeed a sufficient reason for the chief principles, occupations and habits of life.
3. Notice that the question put to the Hebrew wrong-doer might just as well have been put to the Egyptian. He also had been guilty of indefensible conduct, yet he as well as the other was a man with powers of reflection, and the timely question, "Why smitest thou this Hebrew?" might have made him consider that really he had no sufficient reason at all to smite him. We must not too readily assume that enemies will persist in enmity, if only we approach them in a friendly manner. He that would change an enemy into a friend must show himself friendly. The plan may not always be successful; but it is worth trying to conquer our foes by love, patience and meekness. We must ever strive to get the selfish people to think, their thinking powers and all the better part of their humanity only too often get crushed into a corner before the rush of pride, appetite and passion.
IV. CONSIDER THE RESULT OF THE REMONSTRANCE. The wrong-doer has no sufficient and justifying answer to give; and so he tells Moses to his face that he is a mere meddler. When men are in a right course, a course of high and generous aims, they hail any opportunity of presenting their conduct in a favourable aspect. But when they are doing wrong, then they make a pretence of asserting their independence and liberty in order that they may fight shy of awkward confessions. If we wait till we are never found fault with as meddlers we shall do very little to compose quarrels and redress injuries, to vindicate the innocent or deliver the oppressed. Men will listen to a general harangue against tyranny, injustice and selfishness. They will look at us with great admiration as long as we shoot our arrows in the air; but arrows are not meant to be shot in the air; they are meant, at the very least, to go right into the crowd of men, and sometimes to be directly and closely personal. - Y.
1. Daily and successive is the care of God's saving instruments to His oppressed Church.
1. Multiplied their enemies.
Two men of the Hebrews strove together.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
2. Weakened Israel.
3. Banished Moses.Divisions defeat the Church. Moses, as —
1. A judge dooming his enemies.
2. A peacemaker among his countrymen.
2. God's faithful instruments leave courtly pleasures to visit God's afflicted frequently.
3. In visiting for good the oppressed Church, sad contentions may appear among the members.
4. It is an observable evil by overseers, to see Church members striving together.
5. Duels in the Church and among its members are sad things to record.
6. Men called of God must interpose and curb the injurious and offending parties.
7. Smiting of neighbours and brethren is a sin sharply reprovable in the Church (ver. 13).
8. Injurious and offending parties are apt to recoil against rulers upon reproof.
9. Wickedness makes men question any authority of God, that would suppress them.
10. Sin will not endure to be suppressed by power; but will rage against it.
11. It is the artifice of malefactors to recriminate powers for escaping themselves.
12. Zealous avengers of God's oppressed may be terrified sometimes with the criminations of the wicked.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Because they recognize the common grief of men. The suffering of humanity an argument for friendliness.
2. Because they recognize the claim arising from the brotherhood of men.
3. Because they ought to be superior to the passion of strife.
II. IN THIS ENDEAVOUR GOOD MEN SHOULD MAKE MORAL CONSIDERATIONS THE BASIS OF THEIR APPEAL TO THE QUARRELSOME.
1. Not favouritism.
2. Not greater physical strength. Christianity must aid weakness when associated with rectitude.
3. Not hope of reward. A satisfied conscience is brighter and more enduring than gold.
III. GOOD MEN, IN TRYING TO SUBDUE THE QUARRELS OF OTHERS, OFTEN GET LITTLE THANKS, AND MAY INVOLVE THEMSELVES IN TROUBLE. "Who made thee," etc.
1. They imagined that Moses assumed unrightful authority.
2. They reminded Moses of, and taunted him with, past sin. It requires a blameless life to rebuke evil.
3. The heroic interference of Moses lacked moral continuity. His own sin made him a coward.
4. Moses incurred the hatred of Pharaoh. Through endeavouring to stay this quarrel, he lost position and comfort; but it was the means of putting him on the track of Divinely-imposed duty, which would win him world-wide renown.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. To the domestic circle.
2. To society at large.
3. To the Church.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)1. In revenge.
2. In impulse.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Their authority is rejected.
2. They are not understood.
3. Their safety is endangered.
4. The welfare of the Church is imperilled.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)1. Moses was not offended by this treatment.
2. He did not give up in despair.
3. He worked out the training of his boyhood.
4. He worked out the providence of God.
5. He worked out the dictates of his conscience.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(J. Gumming, D. D.)
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